Immigration attorneys often encounter a lawful permanent resident (LPR) who wants to return to the United States after spending considerable time in his or her home country. The person may have left with the intention to return promptly to the United States, but remained unexpectedly due to personal obligations or other circumstances. Generally, an LPR who has remained outside the United States for more than one year is presumed to have “abandoned” his or her LPR status and cannot e-enter the United States with a permanent resident d alone. See 8 CFR §211.1(a).
The SB-1 visa, or returning resident” special immigrant visa, which is obtained through consular processing, might allow one  to reclaim his or her LPR status, assuming that he or she is eligible.  Because of an unanticipated turn of events that may lead to an individual’s lengthy stay, the individual often has not applied for a re-entry permit before leaving the United States, something that is required and shows proof of intent to maintain residence in the United States.  If the person attempts to return to the United States without taking further precautions, such as securing an SB-1 visa, he or she will likely be questioned at the airport by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). If CBP determines that the LPR has abandoned his or her residence, then the LPR will be issued a Notice to Appear and placed in removal proceedings. Typically, the person will be charged by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with being inadmissible at the time of entry under INA §237(a)(1)(A). Then he or she will have the opportunity to challenge the findings by DHS before an immigration judge. If the individual can show that there was no intent to abandon LPR status, then he or she will be allowed to retain LPR status and remain in the United States. However, the stress, legal fees, unpredictable outcome, and the lengthy process of removal proceedings make this an unattractive option for many. In some cases, at the port-of-entry, CBP may even attempt to have the returning LPR sign Form I-407, Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status, and deny his or her entry to the United States.
The adjudicator also will assess the applicant’s family ties, employment, property ownership, and other financial obligations in the United States and in the applicant’s home country. The applicant’s intent and particular circumstances will control.

The Consular Process 

The application process for the SB-1 visa varies from one U.S. embassy to another. It is important to review the particular U.S. consulate’s website to determine any specific instructions for the application and to contact the appropriate officials in advance to confirm the process. Generally, the applicant will need to prepare the following materials:
•    Form DS-117, Application to Determine Returning Resident Status;
•    Application fee (currently $275);
•    Original valid passport, permanent resident card, and re-entry permit (if applicable);
•    Detailed statement explaining the reasons for the delayed return to the United States;
•    Evidence that the applicant’s stay outside the United States was for reasons beyond his or her control (i.e., medical documentation, employment with a U.S. company, etc.); and
•    Evidence of the applicant’s ties to the United States and intention to return (i.e., duration of the applicant’s residence in the United States, tax returns, and evidence of economic, family, and social ties to the United States).
After submitting the application and supporting documentation, the applicant typically will have an initial interview, during which a consular officer will decide if the applicant is eligible to apply for the SB-1 visa. Once the officer determines the applicant’s eligibility, the U.S. consulate will send the applicant an immigrant visa instruction packet and the applicant will wait for a second interview. Approval of the opportunity to apply for an SB-1 visa does not guarantee approval of the immigrant visa. SB-1 visa applicants are subject to the same application processing fees, documentary requirements, medical examination, and administrative processing that apply to all immigrant visa applicants. See 9 Foreign Affairs Manual 42.22 Notes. However, Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, is not required.
If the application is approved, a new permanent resident card will not be issued because the previous “A” number and card will remain valid, unless expired; if this is the case, Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, will be required. The SB-1 visa will typically indicate that it serves as temporary proof of permanent resident status for a one-year-period.
The SB-1 process should be considerably faster than reapplying for an immigrant visa and could be completed in as little as one to two months, depending on the processing times of the particular U.S. consulate. The SB-1 visa is an attractive option in cases where the applicant no longer has the option of re-applying for an immigrant visa based on the category through which he or she immigrated originally (i.e., the applicant has aged out, his or her marital status has changed, he or she has changed employers, etc.). If one has strong equitable factors in his or her favor to justify the prolonged and unanticipated stay abroad, then the SB-1 visa may provide a workable solution to one’s re-entry problem.
— Courtesy:  AILA Voice